Photo of a brown lab lying in a fluffy bed
Black and White headshot of IndeVets Employee Maria
Words by:
Maria Botinas — Director of Clinical Excellence, Florida & the Midwest

The most magical time of the year is upon us! No matter what you may celebrate, this means lots of food, family, sweets, travel, decorations, fireworks, and so much more. For some of us, this is the time of year we look forward to the most, but many of our pets are just trying to survive the craziness.

Keeping your pets safe is always a priority, but during this time of year, there can be so many more obstacles and surprises that make this even more important.

The last thing you want is for your pet to get lost or need a trip to the ER! The big question is, how do you keep your pet safe?

When Company Comes  

During this season, many of us have multiple days of company coming and going or even staying over for extended periods of time. We get together for laughter, food, and to talk about good old times. However, our pets can get nervous, start begging for food, and sometimes because of displaced anxiety and nerves, may show signs of aggression.

When you have company over this holiday season, be sure to prepare your guests and your pets for their arrival!

Preparing our pets can take time, but by making sure they are microchipped and registered, confining them during the high volume of guests, making sure there are no treats at their disposal, and ensuring they are safe with the décor, they can have a happy and fun holiday season.


Microchipping our pets is always important, but ensuring they are microchipped for the holiday season is imperative. When having many guests in your home, your pets can accidentally slip out the front door. Your guests can also leave a back gate open without you realizing it. These situations happen more often than we like to admit.

If your pet is not microchipped (or is and it is not registered), it can be more difficult to find your pet, or they may not be found at all. Suppose they are microchipped, and it is registered and updated. In that case, your pet has a much higher chance of reuniting with you and your family.

According to Today’s Veterinary Practice, a study of over seven thousand animals across 53 animal shelters reported that 52.2% of microchipped dogs and 38.5% of microchipped cats were returned to their owners. In comparison, only 21.9% of dogs and a mere 1.8% of cats were returned to their owners when not microchipped.

Getting your pet microchipped is only half the process. You must still remember to register the microchip! The same study found that more than 800 pets could not be reunited with their owners due to unregistered or inaccurate microchip contact information. Remember to log into the microchip database to update your contact information when you move or get a new phone number.

Confine your pet   

Some pet owners think crating or confining their pets to a safe place during this amazing time of year is like keeping them in prison. However, most pets would rather be confined to a safe place away from all the noise, chaos, and often unwanted attention.

Remember, when guests come into your home, this can create stress for our pets. The added noise, music, and commotion can increase not only anxiety but also excitement (and not in a good way).

When our pets are anxious or excited, it can lead to a long list of issues. Cats can start urinating outside the box or exhibiting biting or swatting behaviors known as “excitement aggression.” Dogs may begin jumping, stealing things off the tables, and sometimes start nipping at guests. Or they may take an opportunity to bolt from your home. Leaving our pets out to “enjoy the festivities” can put them in a situation where they do something out of character or dangerous. It may even land them in the ER if they get hurt or eat something they shouldn’t.

Creating a safe space where your pet is confined is for your pet’s safety. Giving them an area away from the noise, food, and extra attention allows them to relax. Whether it is a crate, play yard, or room just for them, it is better to confine our pets during these visits than risk issues during or after.

Do not feed the pet rule   

To us, holiday food is the best. We sometimes overindulge and lay out a bigger spread than we need. Many of our holiday foods can be detrimental to our pets. The problem comes when they sneak a taste or we feed them some of it.

While it’s ok to give our pets a special treat, we should ensure that we are giving them something that is pet safe. Remember that your guests also enjoy feeding our pets, so kindly remind them about unsafe foods!

As you prepare your spread this holiday season, what foods should be separated from our pets? While this list isn’t inclusive, it covers the major culprits that can send pets to the ER. It is vital to keep our pets away from alcohol, candy (or peanut butter) that contains xylitol or birch sugar, onions (and other members of this family like garlic), grapes, raisins, chocolate, ham, and even turkey. Highly fatty foods can also cause issues in our pets’ gastrointestinal systems.

When company comes, the house’s biggest rule should be not to feed the pet. This will help protect your pet while company is over and hopefully keep people more mindful of things that may “accidentally” fall.   

Caution with the Decorations  

Decorating can begin in late September/early October and even last through the new year. Making sure these decorations are safe for our pets makes the holiday season much more enjoyable.

Tinsel is a highly used decoration in homes, but this beautiful decoration can be looked at like a toy for your cat. And not just any toy, but a dangerous one they can chew and swallow. This may require emergency surgery to remove them from their stomach or intestines!

Not only can tinsel seem like a toy to our pets, but so can things like stuffed dolls, decorations, ornaments, and holiday candles. Your pet should always be supervised when around the decorations. They should not be left unattended with any candles, fireworks, or fire of any kind. All it takes is the flick of a tail to send a candle flying.

Not only are these decorations dangerous, but some holiday plants are poisonous to dogs and cats as well. Leaving them home with these in their reach can create toxicities ranging from stomach upset to death. If you are looking for a suitable alternative, fake plants are great and last through the years.

On top of the tinsel, candles, and plants, you must also use caution regarding the tree. Having a fresh, real tree is always inviting, but it is important to be careful with what you add to the tree water. Many chemicals we use to keep the tree thriving through the extended holiday season can be highly toxic to our pets. Even if you aren’t adding anything to the water, trees can leak sap and fertilizers, which can be toxic to your pet if they drink it. It’s ok to get creative to keep them safe and away from harm’s way!

Cats also love to jump on, climb in, and sometimes even topple over trees. It is important to secure the tree so that it doesn’t come crashing down when your cats have their nightly zoomies and hop into it. There are many options for securing the tree, including anchoring it to the floor, the ceiling, or the wall.  

We all want to keep our pets safe, happy, and healthy. When picking out decorations, inviting guests over, and making delicious food, keep in mind the risks and dangers we discussed and provide a safe and secure place for your pet. When in doubt, call your vet to ask for additional tips, tricks, or advice!   

Do not hesitate to call Pet Poison Control Hotline at 800-213-6680 or the ASPCA Poison Pet Hotline at 888-426-4435 if you are concerned your pet ingested something they were not supposed to. 

Dr. Maria Botinas is IndeVets Area Medical Director for Florida.

More from IndeVets:

4 tips for veterinarians to work more efficiently – IndeVets

Ask a vet: I found a lump, now what? – IndeVets

Surviving the holidays: 8 self-care steps to help you enjoy the holiday season – IndeVets

3 tips for keeping your pet safe during Halloween – IndeVets